It was a Thursday back in September 2003 around 6:30pm. I was sitting in a room Epic had reserved at The University of Texas student union to hold an Epic Movement weekly meeting. “Would anyone show up? If so, how many? Would those who show up like us? Would they understand what Epic is? Are we the ‘right’ people to be helping to start Epic here? What if no one shows up? Would our return from serving in East Asia be all for nothing?” These were questions that filled my mind as we were praying for what would be our first Epic weekly meeting at UT Austin.
Eight years later, it is September 2011 around 6:30pm, and I find myself sitting at Twin Oaks Retreat Center just outside of Austin, TX where 170 students from 9 different campuses and 15 staff and volunteers have come together for the Texas Epic Fall Getaway. My heart was overflowing with joy and humility. After 8 years, the Lord is giving me the incredible privilege to get a glimpse into what He has done in and through Epic’s staff and students in Texas (and now in Oklahoma too). Not only that, I am at the retreat as a mom with my son and my husband Dennis who would be the main speaker for the weekend. All of this was an answer to many prayers that I had been praying for these past 8 years. My heart was indeed full!
You see, this dream of mine began two decades ago, when I was a Freshman at UT just beginning to get involved in Campus Crusade. I was one of only a very small percentage of Asian Americans involved in our movement of over 300 students at the time. And at the first Fall Retreat I attended, I remember asking the Lord for there to one day be a Campus Crusade Fall Retreat for Asian Americans because none of my friends whom I had invited to attend the retreat with me wanted to go because they weren’t comfortable being around so many non-Asians. I had no idea then that the Lord would be giving me the opportunity to be a part of bringing that dream to fruition.
Hearing people cheer when asked if they had been on a summer project or to an Epic Conference brought tears to my eyes. Seeing the almost 60 freshman that were at the Fall Getaway reminded me of why we do what we do – it’s about changed lives, lives being changed because of God’s redeeming love!
So often, as I carry on with my day-to-day routine, it can feel like I’m not sure if what I am doing or who I even am really matters. I especially remember that feeling when only one person showed up to our weekly meeting that Fall of 2003. But when the Lord calls you to something and you follow Him, He will lead you. He will actually walk every step of the way with you to help get you there. As Dennis said so eloquently during one of his talks, “The safest place is wherever Jesus is because that’s the center of God’s will. So where is Jesus going, what is He doing, and how can I join Him?”
Nine years ago, Dennis and I were serving as international campus staff in East Asia. We were asked to return to Austin to help start Epic at UT. Those first few years back in the States were some of the most trying years of my staff career. But looking back, the last sentence of Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” best summarizes all that I felt last weekend at the Texas Epic Fall Getaway – “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
I am grateful the Lord extended grace upon me during all the times I had doubted the future of Epic. I am grateful He sustained me and gave me the strength to persevere through some difficult beginnings and years of waiting. I see now more than ever that in due time, God will show you where He is leading you and that it is most definitely worth the wait!
Written by Carita Chen
Thanks to Day 7 Photography for the great pictures of our retreat.